After a Final Four run last season, the talent on the Loyola men’s basketball team is being replenished after head coach Porter Moser brought in a trio of three-star players in Franklin Agunanne, Cooper Kaifes and Isaiah Bujdoso. The 2018 class of recruits is Moser’s best during his tenure at Loyola, and it’s ranked as the best recruiting class in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) by 247sports.com.
This follows the 2017 class in which Moser brought in Cameron Krutwig, Christian Negron — both rated three stars by 247sports.com — and Lucas Williamson.
Agunanne joins a frontcourt already featuring Krutwig — last season’s MVC Freshman of the Year — Negron and redshirt sophomore Aher Uguak. In such a crowded situation, the 6-foot-9-inch Agunanne said his intensity and effort will help him contribute immediately.
“Effort, they don’t teach that,” Agunanne, 20, said. “So just go out there and bring energy, and also be a leader and play as a team.”
In his first collegiate appearance, the center scored six points to go along with five rebounds in 13 minutes of play during the exhibition game against Winona State University Oct. 23.
Point guard Bujdoso put up two points and dished out four assists while turning the ball over once in 20 minutes off the bench against Winona State. Bujdoso said he felt positive about his first college game and the season as a whole.
“[My goal is] just being a leader off the bench and being a good point guard as a backup for [Clayton Custer] and learning from him this season,” Bujdoso, 19, said. “Every practice, he’s in there talking to me and telling me things to improve on.”
Bujdoso, a communications major, said adjusting to the speed of the college game is one of the hardest things to do. After practicing with the team for a while, he said the game is starting to slow down as he improves his play.
“Obviously it’s a lot harder on the body, longer practices, but the game is a lot faster, too,” Bujdoso said.
Kaifes said he agreed about the adjustment period, especially the increase in physicality and intensity of college basketball. He said classes, practices and games are more demanding than in high school.
“It’s way harder on the body than what I’m used to,” Kaifes said. “Having school all day and then going straight to a three-hour practice. I mean, I’m tired all the time, but I just know that I have to power through it and bring energy every practice.”
Against Winona State, Kaifes was the standout among first-year players. He notched 12 points, making four of five from the 3-point line.
“I had to be confident and think that every single shot I put up was going to go in,” Kaifes, 18, said. “Getting a decent amount of playing time I think was really good because it brought me some experience for an actual college game.”
A sport management major, Kaifes said shooting is his biggest strength; however, he’s more than just a shooter, and has a well-rounded offensive game.
“People call me ‘sneaky athletic,’ but I know that I’m able to get into the lane whenever I want to,” Kaifes said. “I’m able to finish around the rim and find my open teammates, too.”
When asked about goals for the upcoming season, Kaifes said he didn’t have any personal goals for his first year as a Rambler. He added his focus is helping the team succeed after last year’s historic season.
“For the team I’m hoping for another Missouri Valley [Conference] Championship and, hopefully, another run in the NCAA Tournament,” Kaifes said. “I just want to win games.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to take on Furman University Nov. 9 at Gentile Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.